They say write about what you know-I know my grandmother. As long as I can remember she’s been my hero, my comrade, my ally. In many important ways she’s always made sense to me. Throughout my life she’s been a force of good in my life. When I was a child, she always made me feel loved, smart, talented, and special. I cannot recall a single time when she raised her voice or in any way seemed angry with me. As I started school, she shared her love of learning with me and gave me the appetite for knowledge that still spurs my intellectual growth today. The annual trips she and I made to buy my new school clothes were magical times for me. The magic was in the knowledge that our trips were, without fail, times when I felt understood, and when I knew disappointment was not even a possibility.
She was the only elder in my life who could genuinely relate to my college experiences. She made course suggestions, only when I asked, and her ideas were right on-the-mark, as she knew me as well as I knew her. She knew I wanted and needed a higher education and an associated career, unlike any of my male elders.
I could go on and on with the accolades, and today I feel so very fortunate my grandmother is still a vital presence in my life. However, sometimes my grandmother leaves me experiencing two contradictory emotions-joy that she’s here, and fear of the day she’ll be gone.
My grandmother lives life as she chooses to, except for losing my Grandfather to prostate cancer, and the arthritis pain that hinders her mobility. Her independence and relative self-sufficiency is truly something to be thankful for, and we, her family, are thankful. However, we are also very afraid.
Home Alone: My grandmother lives alone, in a 75+ year old farm house, 7 miles from her closest relative, my mother. The house has one bathroom, which is on the second floor, atop a narrow set of 13 potentially deadly stairsteps. But this is how my grandmother wants it. My parents suggested she move into town, where the snowdrifts get cleared by the street maintenance workers. In town, where she would have neighbors nearby who would help watch out for her safety and well being. In town, where she could live in an efficient, temperature-controlled, modern and fully functional home. My grandmother scoffed at these ideas. We tried to compromise, suggesting she tear down the farmhouse and bring in a modular, pre-constructed home, to go on the exact same spot of land. Again she scoffed, stating that the farmhouse was good enough for her. In the winter, when the wind blows, her pipes often freeze. That is, unless she remembers to turn on a fan and set it to blow through a hole in the wall behind a bookcase. I could expound upon the many quirks and potential dangers of this ancient farmhouse but I think you get the point.
Driving: My grandmother has a current driver’s license. Last year she had to renew her license. She had to take the eye exam, the written test, and the driving test. She passed them all. Well, the eye test she passed by seeing her own opthalmologist and having him certify the acuity of her eyesight – she said she could not see through her glasses into the eye testing machine at the DMV. Last year, on a windy day, she said the wind took the car and she hit the side of a bridge while traveling at road speed. She quickly regained control of the car and drove home. The car suffered damage, but was drivable, and she was fine. She had the car repaired and went on with her life. While her car was in the repair shop, she drove my grandfather’s four-wheel-drive pickup. Nothing and no one is going to limit the mobility and movements of my grandmother! Thankfully, my grandmother says she no longer drives at night. Hopefully, she holds true to her word. But what about all the other less than perfect drivers? My grandmother is 89, with reflexes which have certainly been slowed by advanced age. Could she drive defensively and avoid an impending accident caused by another driver?
Pets: My grandmother has always loved animals, sometime to the point where I wonder if she loves creatures more than people. Just kidding, but she almost lives for her dogs. She has been raising and breeding dogs since before I was born. It’s a passion of hers. When I hear my mother say something to my grandmother about being alone on the farm, my grandmother always quickly responds by stating that she’s never alone with the dogs there. However, these are 60+ pound English bulldogs. These dogs can be gentle and great companion animals. But I have also seen her spoiled, often unruly dogs, fight amongst themselves to the point where she has to break up their competitions to be the ‘Alpha’ dog. Dogs get quite careless about where they are biting when their adrenaline is pumping and their instinctual, aggressive behaviors are at work. What if they knocked down my grandmother and bit her? Again, I worry.
MORE TO COME…